Hitler Leader Essay

8396 words - 34 pages

How useful are life histories to students of leadership: A case study of Adolf Hitler
Mr John Parr
UK Student Disclaimer
"The views expressed in this paper are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the UK Ministry of Defence, or any other
department of Her Britannic Majesty's Government of the United Kingdom. Further, such views should not be considered as constituting an official
endorsement of factual accuracy, opinion, conclusion or recommendation of the UK Ministry of Defence, or any other department of Her Britannic
Majesty's Government of the United Kingdom".
"© Crown Copyright 2012-05-30

This dissertation aims to answer the questions "What are the philosophical and social
science research issues that derive from the use of autobiography and biographical studies
in the formation of leadership theory, and whether it is possible or advisable to use such an
approach in the first place". In short, how useful are life histories to students of leadership? A
single case study design is adopted that focuses on Adolf Hitler. The limitations of this design
and type of case study work are recognised by the researcher and have been highlighted in
the dissertation. I have used a critical literature review methodology (after Petticrew &
Roberts: 2006) to identify and choose (based on credibility and representative of the
discipline) four contemporary leadership theorists' work (Adair: 2002; Burns: 1978; Gardner:
1996; and Grint: 2000). They have all sought to explain Hitler in terms of universal leadership
maxims and to use the example of Hitler to support the development of their own leadership
paradigms. I argue that their body of work provides, as far as the single case study is
concerned, sufficient data to assess the utility of autobiography and biographical studies in
the field of leadership theory development. The results from my critical hermeneutic analysis
of the texts indicate that the authors' research approach does not conform to the basic
principles of social science research, particularly in the areas of credibility, transferability,
reliability and objectivity. In addition, from a historiography position, and the norms that
obtain in that discipline, I argue that the authors have not engaged adequately with the
relevant primary sources. From this particular case study I therefore conclude that the four
authors' findings on leadership from their studies of Adolf Hitler should, at best, be treated
with extreme caution. Finally, I recommend that further comparative work on other "great
leaders" is needed to assess whether the general approach to social science leadership
theory development, based on an historical biographical approach, requires further attention.

One of the more pleasant aspects of writing a dissertation is to thank those who have helped
me in my journey. A big thanks goes to Mike Dunn, colleague and supervisor, who has given
much of his time and provided...

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